The Origin of Self-Doubt
For the last five and a half years I have been writing a book. It has been a bigger undertaking than I could have ever imagined. But, the most difficult part of this huge undertaking didn’t have as much to do with writing the book as it did with the personal struggles and challenges I faced. Many of those personal struggles and challenges were based on doubts I had about me. This doubt showed its face every step of the way. Nothing was sacred. I doubted the titles, the subheadings, the material I had written and the format for the book. Sure, I had small victories here and there as I completed an essay or met a target date, but I was often plagued with writing blocks, unaware of their origin or how to work through them. They stalled any headway I had made to that point and perpetuated more self-doubt.
I was convinced my book wouldn’t meet the standards, though I didn’t really know where these standards came from or to whom they belonged. Eventually, I learned that such standards are the stuff of illusions, or made-up stories, our mind tells us based on training, or conditioning, we receive from the time we are born. That training has a foundation message that says, “You’re not good enough.” Self-doubt originates here.
Believing we are not good enough creates a sense of lack as if there is something wrong with us – or perhaps, many things wrong with us. Lack creates fear. Self-doubt is a by-product of this fear. Self-doubt is not based on real fear though, like being threatened by a lion; it is created by the mind. Mind-created fears hold us back for no reason at all.
The self-doubt training continued for us as we received conflicting messages during our formative years. One message sounded like this: “You can do anything you put your mind to.” But, other messages sounded like this: “Why can’t you be more like.” or “Success happens to other people.” Each one of us has to resolve such conflicts. It takes a healthy dose of awareness and some personal willingness and effort to uncover the truth about such statements, but doing so can drastically shift your experience of life in your favor. You have to dig for the truth.
When we believe in the doubt, we are paralyzed by the fear of the outcome. In my scenario, if any of my doubts and fears came true, what then? What did that mean to me? My mind told me I would be embarrassed for having failed, that others would see me as incapable and I would have wasted more than five years of my life for nothing. These made up stories are the things that keep us from living our lives freely, attempting new things or realizing our dreams. We have to stop listening to such stories.
To break free from self-doubt, I started asking myself questions about the stories my head was telling me. Who would be embarrassed and who would I let down? Is anything in life really a waste or is there purpose and value in everything? The answers to these questions were key elements to the emotional healing that took place as a result of this process. That healing has given me a new found freedom in my life. I wish the same for you.
The Antidote to Doubt
I once saw a photo of a horse standing completely still, tied to a plastic lawn chair. This photo reminded me that we are the same in most cases. The plastic chair for each of us is symbolic of our self-doubt and our fears. With our plastic chairs, we sell ourselves short on a regular basis, held back by thoughts that have no basis.
It is amazing to me that we live a life based on our mind’s limited parameters due to self-doubt and fear rather than living the way we truly want to live. There is so much we want to do, to explore, to attempt and to dream, but we don’t. Instead, we think up all kinds of excuses and say we can’t. But, there is an alternative. We can do something different that we have been conditioned to do; most of us just don’t know that.
We must realize the origin of the doubts and realize we don’t have to follow that line of thinking any longer. Then, we have to do something we have not been trained to do .¨ love ourselves. Self-love is the antidote to self-doubt. With self-love, we begin to trust ourselves, something else we haven’t been taught to do much. It may sound simplistic, but everything connected to love is simple. That’s one of the reasons love is so healing and powerful.
Self-love means no more negative self-talk, no more doom and gloom thinking and no more drama. Doubt and fear love drama. Drama is a hook that comes with thinking this way, but the hook will drain you of your life energy and your life experience. It will hold you back and keep you connected to the thinking system that created the fear in the first place. We have to break the cycle.
One strategy for breaking that cycle is to pretend for a moment that you don’t doubt yourself on something. Pretend you can do or be whatever it is your doubt tells you that you can’t do or be. Now what? Is there any power in the doubt or in the thoughts associated with the doubt when you don’t dwell on them or add to them? No. They just sit there. You haven’t supplied any energy for them to move, dragging you along with them. In that moment, doubt has no power over you.
Let’s attempt a different strategy for breaking free from self-doubt. Let’s acknowledge the doubt, but not care what the thoughts connected to the doubt tell you. It might sound like this, “I doubt I can do this, but so what. I don’t care.” Because doubt perpetuates more self-doubt, we are likely to spiral into the depths of despair with no motivation to lift ourselves out of the hole. But, by saying “so what” and not caring, we don’t get caught up in the drama of doubt. Not only does that take the sting out of the doubt, we aren’t ruled by it any longer either.
These are just a few strategies you can use to help you. There are others, but no matter how you break free, promise yourself to begin the process. Find the awareness and the strength to start living free from this aspect of mind-created fear. You deserve nothing less.
5 Steps to Break Free from Self-doubt
- Recognize that doubt exists. It is important to realize we all have doubts. In order to identify the specific doubt, you have to understand it is there.
- Identify the doubt. The thing about doubts is they are repetitive so they are easy to identify once you start listening for them. What triggers your doubt? Is it a certain person or a certain situation? What It is helpful to take a moment to write down where you were, what you were doing and
- Talk it out. When you identify the doubt, talk it out. You can talk to yourself, write it out or talk with someone else. What did you doubt about yourself? Why? Is the doubt connected to a concrete experience? Do you doubt yourself in a situation or with a particular person? What fears are attached to that doubt? Answer these questions to find what thoughts and beliefs support your doubt and keep it alive.
- Whose fear is it? Whose voice is it? It is so important to identify the fear that is attached to the doubt and the voice that goes with it. There is no doubt we have that belongs to us. We were trained to doubt ourselves and that training comes from a fear that belongs to or belonged to someone else. The fear and doubt don’t belong to you anymore than it belonged to the person who taught it to you. It’s time to break the cycle.
- Gain perspective. When you identify what you doubt about yourself, what the triggers are, what fear is that is associated with the doubt and whose voice is talking, you have given yourself the gift of space .¨ space from following the doubt without question like a good soldier. This space gives you breathing room to take a bird’s eye view as an observer of the doubt. This gives you the opportunity to disconnect from the doubt enough to gain a true perspective of it instead of just being dragged through life by it. You can see that you don’t have to follow it anymore. The doubt is not you. It does not define who you are and it does not define what you can and cannot do. You get to say who you are, how you are and what you want to do in life. Doubt no longer has power over you. It’s time to break free and live. It’s time to love yourself.
Understanding the origin of self-doubt was a key to healing as I learned to become an observer of the thoughts that originate from self-doubt rather than to continue as a full on, active participant of them. This reduced the grip my doubts had over me and allowed my true power to begin shining through. That power is love .¨ self-love. With more love comes more freedom to live my life as I want to live it. It’s a work in progress, but it’s okay. Each step is a step toward more freedom in my life. If I can do it, you can, too. What is your plastic lawn chair?